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Trump's New National Security Adviser Against Use of Radical Islamic Terrorism; Tom Perez is New DNC Chair; Small Town Looks to Trump to Save Coal Plant; Malaysian Officials Declared Airport Safe from Toxic Chemical; Russian Opposition Holds March to Remember Slain Critic; Lawmakers Face Rowdy Crowd During Town Halls; Chicago Leaders Push Back at Trump Attacks; Oscar Nominated Film Follows Family Fleeing Syria; Trump Strategist Steve Bannon Steps into the Light; Aired 4-5a ET
Aired February 26, 2017 - 04:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[04:00:09] GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR: It is a break with tradition. The president of the United States declining to be a guest of honor for a yearly dinner with journalists who cover the White House. We'll have reactions to that.
NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Also Democrats elect a new leader and he's coming out swinging against President Trump.
HOWELL: And giving the airport the all-clear. Officials in Kuala Lumpur say there are no traces of the poison that killed the half- brother of Kim Jong-un.
Live from CNN world headquarters in Atlanta, welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm George Howell.
ALLEN: And I'm Natalie Allen. Thank you for joining us. CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.
And hello, everyone. We begin with President Donald Trump. He has a busy week ahead of him. Tuesday night marks his debut appearance as president before a Joint Session of Congress.
Also this week the White House is expected to roll out a revised executive order banning travelers from seven mostly Muslim nations.
HOWELL: It does promise to be a busy week for the president but there is one event on his calendar coming up in April that President Trump is declining. Mr. Trump tweeted Saturday without explanation, quote, "I will not be attending the White House Correspondents Association Dinner this year. Please wish everyone well and have a great evening."
The head of the Correspondents Association spoke with our colleague Brianna Keilar about it. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEFF MASON, PRESIDENT, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENTS' ASSOCIATION: It's not a surprise to say that the president has said many negative things about the media and comparing the media or suggesting that the media is the enemy of the American people. That, of course, is something that the Correspondents' Association and journalists reject. The media is an incredibly important part of a vibrant republic and we celebrate that at that dinner. It's up to him to decide whether or not he wants to come, but the Correspondents' Association and the members who work in this room every day will continue to do our jobs and write the news and tell the truth about this administration as we have done about every administration before.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: I know you insist the dinner is not going to be canceled.
KEILAR: But still going to have a large attendance. But do you see it as being a different event than it has been in past years?
MASON: You know what, it was already going to be a different event and we haven't had a whole lot of details about that yet. Obviously the fact that the president has decided not to come will impact the dinner, it will impact who sits up on the dais with the rest of the board. But, no, we're not going to cancel the dinner. We are going to uphold our mission and we do that and celebrate that at that dinner.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOWELL: And it is quite a break in tradition. This is something that presidents of the United States have done for decades now.
ALLEN: Right. The one president who missed was Ronald Reagan because he was overcoming being shot. But it's that one night where everyone kind of makes peace for a night and parody somewhat, but he'll have apparently none of that.
HOWELL: No jokes there.
ALLEN: All right. We move on to other stories regarding the president. The phrase radical Islamic terrorism is one he uses -- he uses it often and slams opponents who don't.
HOWELL: But CNN has learned his new National Security adviser may dislike that word choice and thinks it won't help in the fight against terror groups like ISIS.
Our global affairs correspondent Elise Labott has this report for us.
ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Now President Trump's new National Security adviser appears to want a more moderate approach to the Islamic world than his predecessor Mike Flynn and even the president himself.
Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster held a meeting with his staff at the NSC a few days ago. According to several people who attended the meeting, he said that the term radical Islamic terrorism was unhelpful because terrorists like ISIS are perverting the religion and, therefore, their behavior is un-Islamic.
Now both the president and Flynn have frequently used that term to describe jihad terrorists. McMaster made the argument that this only plays into their propaganda that this is a religious war against Islam and that hurts U.S. efforts to work with Arab and Muslim allies to defeat terrorist groups.
Now we're told McMaster had a strikingly different tone than Mike Flynn who was forced to resign last week after the controversy over his discussions with the Russian ambassador. Now, in contrast to President Trump who has praised Vladimir Putin, McMaster said Russia was an adversary.
So all of this really a repudiation of President Trump's language and worldview. The president doesn't seem to be that bent out of shape about it. The White House acknowledging a difference of opinion on language, but not about the approach to fight terrorism.
President Trump does seem to be impressionable to the opinions of his aides. And so career staff, many of whom agree with McMaster's worldview, are hoping he can push a more moderate U.S. foreign policy.
[04:05:01] Officials say his arrival and his discussions with staff are really boosting morale which was sinking under Flynn. We'll have to see whether this views will carry the day.
Elise Labott, CNN, Washington.
HOWELL: Elise Labott, thank you for the reporting.
In the meantime, Democrats are rebuilding their party after a really tough loss for them in November, electing a new leader.
ALLEN: Yes. How do they move forward from that? We will find out probably soon. Former U.S. Labor secretary Tom Perez seen there was elected Saturday as the new chairman of the Democratic National Committee. And he wasted no time pledging a vigorous party-wide challenge to the Trump administration.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM PEREZ, CHAIRMAN, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE: January 20th was an undeniably important day. But January 21st and beyond was far more important for America. Millions of people stood up and said, Donald Trump, you do not stand for America. Donald Trump, we will not allow those values to divide America.
(END VIDEO CLIP) ALLEN: Well, former U.S. president Barack Obama congratulated the new Democratic leadership with this statement. He said, "I'm proud of all the candidates who ran and who make this great party what it is. What unites our party is a belief in opportunity, the idea that however you started out, whatever you look like or whomever you love, America is the place where you can make it if you try."
HOWELL: And then this from the former Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, quote, "Congrats to DNC chair Tom Perez and Deputy Keith Ellison. Excited for strong, unified party standing for best of our country into the future."
ALLEN: Well, we want to talk about the developments from the political world there. With us now from Birmingham, England, Scott Lucas, professor of International Politics at the University of Birmingham, who joins us often.
Scott, nice to see you. Thank you for talking with us.
SCOTT LUCAS, PROF. OF INTERNATIONAL POLITICS, UNIVERSITY OF BIRMINGHAM: Thank you.
ALLEN: Bottom line, though, if you were advising this new leader of the Democrats, Mr. Perez, what would be your advice for a, say, Democratic comeback? How do they approach this?
LUCAS: I think he's already implementing it along with Keith Ellison who he narrowly defeated yesterday. The watch word is unity. And that means that divisions that we saw between supporters of Hillary Clinton, those of Bernie Sanders during the campaign, and ripples of that even up to now. That's gone. I think there is consensus that given the threat of Trump, not just a party threat, but a threat to many issues, many values, that they consider important, the Democrats are looking to rally.
It's going to be easier for them than it is when they are in power ironically, because in opposition they can protect things and say we still want to have Obamacare. We want to depend the environment. We want to defend a positive American image abroad. That means they don't have to focus on scrabbles amongst themselves but that man in the White House who is seen as a threat.
ALLEN: Right, so does that mean the Democrats will try to work with Donald Trump at all? Or will they fight him tooth and nail?
LUCAS: They won't work with Donald Trump. I think it's quite clear that Trump and his close advisers don't want to work with them, including chief strategist Steve Bannon. Instead watch for the Democrats to try to build bridges with moderate Republicans, centrist Republicans. For example, we've got an ongoing investigation into Trump's links with Russia. Look for Democrats to try to work with Republican colleagues to say we need a full and fair investigation free of White House interference.
Look for them to work with the Republicans in the House or in Senate especially to say, look, we know that Obamacare needs to have reforms, but we don't want to simply throw Obamacare out the window. Those are the types of issues where they'll look for common ground.
ALLEN: All right. So we'll have to wait and see if -- how their voices are carried, if they can go head-to-head with Donald Trump who does things his own way, and certainly is laying out his agenda.
He had dinner with Nigel Farage last night, the former head of Britain's UK Independence Party, who tweeted a photo dining at Trump's hotel in D.C. There they are. Mr. Farage obviously enjoying himself. He spoke at the conservative CPAC meeting and he said the Brexit and Trump victory launched a great global revolution and 2016 would be a year to remember.
Well, as they said, with President Trump laying out his agenda, does it look like President Trump's revolution will take hold? Is it taking hold?
LUCAS: Well, first of all, let's be clear, I mean, Nigel Farage is out for Nigel Farage. He doesn't represent the mainstream views in the UK. He certainly doesn't represent the views of the British government, including the Prime Minister Theresa May. So to say that Trump and Farage are going to lead this global revolution, they may want that but that's far from the situation.
The reality is, is that Trump has very strong opinions or Trump's advisers have strong issues on issues like global trade, on issues like climate change, on issues like relations with Russia. And all of these issues concern many people in Europe. Many people connected with NATO and indeed many people in areas like Asia and like the Middle East. Trump is considered an unstable proposition at this point despite what Mr. Farage might say to praise him.
[04:10:03] ALLEN: Scott Lucas, we always appreciate you joining us, thank you.
LUCAS: Thank you.
HOWELL: One of the messages that the president hit hard on the campaign to his victory was his message to coal country. That message, the jobs are coming back. But that promise is already being put to the test. Large numbers of coal plants are being shut down across the United States.
ALLEN: In Ohio residents are now asking President Trump to save not only their jobs but their entire town before it's too late.
Here's CNN's Martin Savidge with that.
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In Ohio it's hard to find an area more remote or more red than Manchester where two of every three votes were for Donald Trump.
ROBERT HILDERBRAND, MAYOR OF MANCHESTER, OHIO: To Donald Trump.
JUNE WILSON, SMALL BUSINESS OWNER: Trump. WILL RICHARDS, EMPLOYEE, STUART POWER PLANT: To Trump.
CHUCK SHELTON, EMPLOYEE, KILLEN POWER PLANT: Trump.
SAVIDGE: The tiny town sits along the bucolic banks of the Ohio River.
WILSON: It's something about the water here. You get it in your blood and you don't want to leave.
SAVIDGE: Folks can tell you when the town started, 1791. And when they believe it will die.
HILDERBRAND: I say 2018.
SHELTON: June of 2018 is the last I personally heard on.
SAVIDGE: That's when two large coal fired power plants on either side of the town are projected to close. The news broke just after the election.
RICHARDS: It was definitely a shock to myself and my friends and coworkers, family, people in the local community. I mean, I think some people are still in shock.
SAVIDGE: As it stands now, the union says about 700 jobs will be lost in the town of just 2,000 people. The coal supplier says it will cut an additional 1500 jobs. Tax revenues and property values will plummet. So what about all those rallies?
TRUMP: I love Ohio. You know, I worked in Ohio.
SAVIDGE: All those promises of jobs and of reenergizing coal.
TRUMP: Jobs, jobs, jobs.
SAVIDGE (on camera): So if he is the energy coal president, why are coal plants still shutting down?
SHELTON: I don't think it's a 100 percent up to Trump. I mean, I think he's got a lot to say so in it, but to me it's poor business decisions.
SAVIDGE (voice-over): The mayor agrees it's not Trump's fault. He blames plant owners and management.
HILDERBRAND: Men in overhauls built this country. The men in suits to work destroyed it.
SAVIDGE (on camera): But he is a man in a suit.
HILDERBRAND: But he has touched the working people. He stood up for the working people.
SAVIDGE: Did you vote for Trump hoping that he would save your job? SHELTON: That's not the only reason I voted for him, but I did vote
for Trump because I just -- I liked the way his views are on stuff. And I liked the way he don't try to be all political correct on everything.
RICHARDS: He was very positive towards coal where others weren't.
SAVIDGE: You don't feel like despite all his talk of coal, bring the jobs back, that somehow your coal-related job?
SHELTON: No, I personally don't feel let down. But I'm personally hope that he steps in on this part as well.
HILDERBRAND: Puts some pressure on, you know, let's rework this coal industry around.
SAVIDGE (voice-over): These Trump voters are trying to convince now President Trump to keep his promises about jobs and coal.
(On camera): If he can't? If he doesn't?
RICHARDS: Well, you know, I don't know, I guess I'll have to see what the future holds. I won't necessarily hold it against him, but I guess more of a disappointment.
SAVIDGE (voice-over): If they were just empty promises, then in Manchester, in other towns with coal fired power plants, futures once so bright will soon face much darker days.
Martin Savidge, CNN, Manchester, Ohio.
HOWELL: Martin really showing the story there. And after the election, it just became so clear and obvious for people who didn't see it, but there are two different perspectives on, you know, America's -- how it is to be an American. You know, the progress and, you know, the opportunity, that story really goes to the heart of it.
ALLEN: Yes. And then the question is, you know, why is that coal plant shutting down?
ALLEN: And will the president intervene at all? And a lot of people want to see coal go away, but the jobs go away. So we'll continue to follow that story for sure.
HOWELL: As NEWSROOM continues this hour, a chemical weapon. A dramatic assassination. And now the hunt for the answers in the murder of Kim Jong-nam. Amid all the mystery, Malaysia says that one thing can be for sure. We'll explain that.
ALLEN: Also ahead, thousands are expected to march in Russia Sunday in honor of slain Kremlin critic Boris Nemtsov. We'll have the latest from Moscow coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
[04:18:10] HOWELL: Welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM. An evening of festivities turned into tragedy Saturday night in New Orleans, Louisiana. This during a Mardi Gras parade there. A pickup truck slammed into a crowd of people injuring at least 28 of them. Five people seriously hurt and the youngest victim only 3 years old.
ALLEN: The suspect was taken into custody and police say he appeared highly intoxicated. A witness told CNN affiliate WDSE there in New Orleans the truck barreled right into the group of people.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When I heard the impact over here, I had seen the truck hitting the people on the ground coming through the crowd, it ricocheted off one car. And so he hooked a hard left. That's when he hit all the people, the crowd over here. Everybody was trying to help one another, trying to get them to make sure everybody was all right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ALLEN: Seems odd they are sitting there with their party necklaces on Mardi Gras.
ALLEN: And such a tragedy happened. That was of course a witness there. The city's police chief says there's no indication the crash was involved with terrorism -- a terrorist act. Still very, very sad there.
Officials are answering a new concern raised by the murder of Kim Jong-nam. They say there's no trace of toxic chemicals at the scene of his killing. Kuala Lumpur International Airport was swept this weekend two weeks after the estranged half brother of the North Korean leader was apparently poisoned there with a banned nerve agent.
Let's go live to the Malaysian capital and CNN's Alexandra Field.
And Alexandra, that must be a relief to a lot of people because it trickled out how he was killed. What was on that substance that was rubbed on his face? And where did it go? How did it get there? We still don't know those questions. So relief that the airport appears safe.
ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. That's right, Natalie. And that of course does come as a relief because there has been a great deal of concern over the revelation that this VX nerve agent, one of the most lethal, one of the most potent chemical weapons, have been deployed inside this busy airport terminal.
[04:20:12] What we're learning in just the last few minutes is news from the health minister who said that the autopsy results on Kim Jong-nam are consistent with VX nerve agent. Of course that revelation was expected, but he is now saying it appears that Kim Jong-nam died within just 15 to 20 minutes of the attack that happened in that terminal, which is, of course, why there is such a great deal of concern about the safety of that terminal for the passengers who have been passing through there for nearly two weeks.
Finally, overnight, what you saw were teams of inspectors who went in there, they were wearing protective suits. They did a full sweep of that terminal. And they said they turned up no dangerous or hazardous materials. They say they have also done medical checks on all those who were in contact with Kim Jong-nam, that would be the medical staff at a clinic at the airport and also from the customer service staff where he had gone to first report that he was feeling dizzy in the aftermath of that attack.
So the word coming from police who were inside the terminal overnight and from the health minister is that this airport is safe. Anyone who had come into contact with this highly potent nerve agent would have felt the symptoms, would have felt the effects of it within minutes or even up to 18 hours. And again, we are being told that no illnesses have been reported as a result of any contact with the VX agent -- Natalie.
ALLEN: Yes, and it's been interesting, Alexandra, hasn't it, that North Korea is not accepting any of this and the loss of Kim Jong-un's half brother? Is there anything moving forward in the tit-for-tat these two countries are having with one another as his body remains in a morgue?
FIELD: Yes, actually, it's still sitting there in the morgue in the hospital that is behind me. And there's still a fight over this body. The North Koreans demanding its return and the Malaysian officials really sticking to their initial points here, which is that they will not release the body without the next of kin coming to identify it and also providing a DNA sample.
What's interesting, Natalie, here is the fact that the North Koreans have from the beginning criticized this investigation. They criticized the poisoning theory. They said they were told that Kim Jong-nam had died of a, quote, "heart stroke." They have made no official statement about the findings of that VX agent on the face of Kim Jong-nam or in his eyes since authorities first revealed that just a couple of days ago. No word on that from Korean authorities at this point, but we do know that Malaysian officials continue to seek up to seven North Korean citizens. They want to speak to three of them in relation to this incident. And they say that four of the suspects have potentially -- or they believe that four of the suspects have actually left the country and returned to Pyongyang. So they're seeking cooperation from North Korea in reaching some of those people -- Natalie.
ALLEN: Now that would be interesting if they do, wouldn't it? If they're safely behind North Korean borders. Well, we appreciate you following it for us, Alexandra Field for us there. Thank you.
HOWELL: In Russia opposition is holding a march in Moscow to mark the second anniversary since Kremlin critic Boris Nemtsov was murdered.
CNN's Matthew Chance is live in the Russian capital following this story.
Matthew, if you could just set the scene for us and explain to our viewers around the world and in the U.S. where you are and what's happening right now.
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. Well, I'm right in the center of Moscow on this bitterly cold Sunday afternoon where it's expected that thousands of people will arrive in this location just behind me through these metal detectors that are being manned by the Moscow authorities and the Moscow police to commemorate the second anniversary of the killing in Moscow of Boris Nemtsov, who was perhaps the country's most prominent opposition figure.
He was gunned down as I said two years ago on a bridge just outside the Kremlin when he was walking home from dinner with his girlfriend. The authorities have refused permission to the protesters to stage a rally and a march in the location where he was killed. Instead, they are making them come to this area some distance from the bridge.
Now there have been a couple of arrests that have been made, people from Chechnya, who is a restive republic in the south of Russia. Two of them have been charged, although opposition figures in this country and family members of Boris Nemtsov say they're not satisfied at all with the investigation. And while they have stopped short of accusing Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, of ordering the killing of Boris Nemtsov, they do say that he presides over a country that makes this kind of violence, the kind of violence that saw Boris Nemtsov shot four times until he was killed on that bride in the shadow of the Kremlin to make that possible. And so it's -- today is all about trying to remember Boris Nemtsov. And to call on people in Russia. And there are a number of other protests taking place in Russia as well.
[04:25:03] To kind of demonstrate (INAUDIBLE) with freedom and to demonstrate the freedom of speech, which is what the opposition say Boris Nemtsov stood for.
HOWELL: Matthew, and just -- while you were speaking, we were looking at these images that show, you know, where people were coming together, where people were leaving flowers, the images of Boris Nemtsov there. Just to get a sense, because many times you hear a great deal about the popularity of the Russian president, Vladimir Putin. Rarely do you hear about protests. So to get a sense from you at context here, how difficult or easy is it for a protest, for opposition to come about? Is that a welcomed voice?
CHANCE: Well, I think it's fair to say that it's not a particularly welcomed voice. No, you're right, I mean, the popularity of Vladimir Putin is very high and the supporters of Boris Nemtsov and supporters of the opposition in general are a tiny minority. But as Boris Nemtsov himself once said, supporters, fighters for freedom of Russia are always in the minority. That's said to be the case, that's 21st century Russia. We're expecting thousands of people here today, but, you know, this is a country of 140 million people. And these people represent just a tiny fraction of that population.
HOWELL: Important to put that into context. Matthew Chance live in Moscow, thank you so much for the reporting. And we'll stay in touch with you as the crowds continue to gather.
ALLEN: Well, U.S. President Donald Trump -- did I say drump? Trump promised job growth but he has almost 2,000 jobs still left to fill in his administration. We'll have that story ahead here.
HOWELL: Plus, another weekend and a very angry town hall across the United States. Some lawmakers are facing people while others, well, they refuse to hold those meetings altogether.
It is 4:26 in the morning in Atlanta, Georgia. Live to our viewers from both networks in the U.S. and around the world. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM.
[04:30:21] ALLEN: Welcome back to our viewers here in the U.S. and around the world. We appreciate you tuning in to CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Natalie Allen.
HOWELL: And I'm George Howell with the headlines we're following for you this day.
ALLEN: U.S. President Donald Trump says he will not attend the White House Correspondents' Dinner on April 29th. It is a break with tradition and it's usually a big deal as the president is usually the guest of honor. Mr. Trump has a rocky relationship with the mainstream media, referring to it -- or us, I guess, recently as the enemy of the American people.
HOWELL: Which we are not. At least 28 people are injured after a truck runs into a crowd in New Orleans, Louisiana. This happened Saturday at a Mardi Gras parade. Police say that the suspect is in custody. They say that he appeared highly intoxicated. New Orleans police chief says that there's no indication that the crash was a terrorist attack.
ALLEN: Kuala Lumpur International Airport has been declared safe by Malaysian authorities. A weekend sweep found no toxic material where Kim Jong-nam was killed. Police say the half brother of North Korea's leader was poisoned with a VX nerve agent. It's extremely toxic and banned under the Chemical Weapons Convention.
HOWELL: The president of the United States Donald Trump has now been in office for just a little more than a month and right now according to available data that's been reviewed by CNN, he has nearly 2,000 jobs in his administration that he still has yet to fill.
ALLEN: Earlier CNN's Brianna Keilar spoke to David Cohen about what the vacancies mean. He's a professor of political science at the University of Akron in Ohio. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID COHEN, POLITICAL SCIENCE PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF AKRON: It's not unusual that the president takes a long time to fill all of the positions that they have to once they transition in office. I mean, it could be up to a year to get all of those positions filled. And every president runs into this challenge. But the Trump administration has been pretty lax in terms of appointing people to these positions.
You know, for example, "The Washington Post" tracks some of the real key positions in the Cabinet, 500-plus positions. The Trump administration has appointed only 34 people to these positions and only 14 have been confirmed. That's a pretty slow pace. And there's some serious implications to that. And that is, you know, besides the fact that the Cabinet is not filled, a lot of those deputy cabinet and sub-cabinet positions that are really, really crucial to actually running our executive branch, those positions are largely unfilled as well.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOWELL: Another weekend and another round of very angry town halls. Some U.S. voters have not been shy this week about making their voices heard.
ALLEN: They have not. They want to meet with their elected representatives to get answers on health care, the Trump administration and Russia.
Here's Sara Ganim.
SARA GANIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: As we've seen, there's been a wave of anger at town halls across the country in the last week making for some pretty contentious moments. On Saturday Republican Congressman Gary Palmer was booed in his home district in Alabama following a question on climate change.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why are you doing this? When are you getting --
REP. GARY PALMER (R), ALABAMA: Because the science is not centered on that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GANIM: It's moments like those that are making some lawmakers reconsider holding town halls at all. New York Congressman Peter King said on Friday that he won't hold town halls if they are just going to divulge into a, quote, "screaming session," saying that angry town halls trivialize and diminish democracy. But it's not just Republicans who are backing off of the traditional
meetings with constituents. Some Democrats, particularly in states that went for Trump in 2016, in vulnerable positions and up for re- election in 2018, are also shying away from town halls to avoid a possibly contentious situation.
And there's another reason some Democrats might want to hold off on a town hall right now. I talked to one strategist. He explained it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LARRY SABATO, director, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA CENTER FOR POLITICS: I think they are avoiding stepping on the anti-Republican story because it is the Republican town halls that have become very controversial. And it's video clips from those town halls that have made it on to the national news night after night. So if a Democrat has a town hall and it turns messy, that steps on the story. That makes it a bipartisan story. Probably less interesting or less potent politically.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GANIM: Now, to be fair, many are holding events, just not the traditional town hall. For example, Senator Jon Tester in Montana opted for a Facebook Live, which is a much more controlled environment.
Democratic strategists are telling me that traditional town halls are just simply too risky right now. They see no upside in putting themselves in a position where an exchange with an angry protester could end up going viral.
[04:35:08] Sara Ganim, CNN, New York.
ALLEN: Well, another community that is speaking out about issues is Chicago and the violence in Chicago is one of President Trump's favorite talking points.
HOWELL: And now community leaders there, they are telling Mr. Trump that actions speak louder than words.
Rosa Flores has more.
TRUMP: I mean, can you believe what is happening in Chicago as an example?
ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Donald Trump talking Chicago violence yet again.
TRUMP: Two days ago, seven people were shot and I believe killed. Seven people.
FLORES: Not only during his speech at CPAC, but, you guessed it, on Twitter.
Wednesday was, indeed, the deadliest day this year in Chicago. Seven people were shot and killed, including a pregnant woman. But for community leaders, like Father Michael Pfleger, who has been working to stop the violence for more than four decades, the president talking about it is getting old.
FR. MICHAEL PFLEGER, ST. SABINA CHURCH: My anger with the president, he keeps tweeting and dropping statements about Chicago. In my mind, if you are really serious, come to Chicago.
FLORES: Candidate Donald Trump started slamming Chicago early in his campaign.
TRUMP: In Chicago, 3,664 people have been shot since January 1st of this year. Can you believe that.
FLORES: Then he tweeted about it as president-elect, saying, "If the mayor can't do it, he must ask for federal help." As president, he continued beating the drum.
TRUMP: What is going on in Chicago? It's worse than some of the places that we read about in the Middle East.
FLORES: Using the word "carnage" to describe the killings and again saying if the city can't solve the problem, he'll send in the feds.
MAYOR RAHM EMANUEL, CHICAGO: I would welcome -- always have -- welcome federal participation in working with local law enforcement to dealing with guns and gangs.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The election is over.
FLORES: The Cook County commissioners also frustrated about the president talking and not doing.
LARRY SUFFREDIN, COOK COUNTY BOARD MEMBER: The president of the United States does not change the course of any of his action. We're not a monarchy.
FLORES: But the commissioner say the administration can pump money to combat crime and inject economic investment. They mapped it out for the president in a resolution passed earlier this month. But Chicago is still waiting.
So why does the president keep talking about the Windy City?
PFLEGER: I think it's about embarrassing Barack Obama. I think this is, I am going to go to your hometown and I care about it more than you. I think your agenda is sensationalism. And I -- it bothers me because this is blood out here.
FLORES: The White House, for its part, says law and order is a top priority.
CNN reached out to the White House directly, asking why the president keeps singling out Chicago and we haven't heard back.
Rosa Flores, CNN, Chicago.
HOWELL: I can tell you from, you know, having worked in the Chicago bureau, and you heard Father Pfleger talk about blood on the streets and having seen blood on the streets from these deadly shootings, there are good people there that are looking for solutions. So, you know, they want actions and not words.
ALLEN: Yes, and they deserve it. Chicago is a great, great city. But it's got a huge problem with that.
ALLEN: The gang situation there. Well, we'll, again, follow-up on that story as well to see if there's reaction from President Trump.
Coming up here, though, one family's dangerous journey, fleeing Syria is captured in an Oscar-nominated documentary. And why the Academy Awards mean so much to this family. That's next.
HOWELL: Plus, a chunk of ice as big as -- well, you would believe a small country, would you believe that? What scientists recently found in Antarctica, still ahead.
[04:42:17] HOWELL: Welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM. So get ready, a solar eclipse will be visible across parts of the planet on Sunday.
ALLEN: Derek is here to tell us about it.
DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. About T-minus four hours actually if you're in South America. Perhaps southern Africa, you have the greatest potential of seeing this.
ALLEN: I knew you would say that. We don't see anything over here.
VAN DAM: Come on. August 21st of this year North America will see its most highly publicized solar eclipse. We just have to wait a few months, OK?
This is what you're looking at right now, a preview of things to come if you're tuning in from South America or southern Africa. That's a solar eclipse that took place in Indonesia about six months ago.
Let's get to the graphics to explain what a solar eclipse is. We know the sunshine, that big beam of light that provides life and energy here on planets -- on our planet, well, it also produces so much light rays that gets blocked out by the time. The moon comes in direct line between the earth and the sun. So we get the solar eclipse. The moon casts a shadow on the planets and it blocks out our star that provides life. Now there is a unique solar eclipse today that's happening. It's not
only a total solar eclipse, but it is an annular solar eclipse. Let me explain. The difference is that the moon -- think about this, as it rotates around the planet it is an elliptical fashion. So there are points when the moon is closer and farther away from us here on the planet. So that has an impact on the size of the shadow that is cast on the earth.
So the annular solar eclipse is going to happen in about four hours' time is going to be visible with a smaller disk on the sun, leaving the small periphery on the outer edges called the ring of fire. That is why it is called the annular solar eclipse. A very unique solar eclipse to say the least.
Here's your viewing times and the totality expected across southern sections of Chile and to Argentina. A beautiful part of the world, by the way. Patagonia, if you haven't been there, take a look, it is incredible. That will travel across the Atlantic, make its way into southern Africa. So Rwanda, Angola, anywhere in Zambia, Botswana, parts of South Africa, including my friends in Cape Town. You should see at least partial totality with this. And again that's occurring here in the next four hours. So be prepared, get outside. Looks like the weather should play along especially if you're in the western sections of southern Africa.
Take you to the other part of the world, the bottom part, this is Antarctica. We have found some amazing stuff here. An iceberg the size or at least half the size of Jamaica. Equivalent to that of Delaware, about to break off from the western parts of the continent. And I want to take you to some video there of a flyover of this large and sea ice shelf.
[04:45:05] This is a 5,000-square kilometer, nearly 100-story deep ice shelf that's about to break off. So a newly formed iceberg.
We've got climate change written all over this, right, Natalie? So you're looking at this amazing, amazing images here of what is going to be a large iceberg. So, yes, lots to cover here at the weather center to say the least. But some interesting stories there.
HOWELL: Derek, thank you.
ALLEN: Derek, all right. See you later.
Hollywood is getting ready for the biggest night of the year. Of course, what would that be, George?
HOWELL: That would be the Oscars.
ALLEN: Yes, the musical "La La Land" leads the pack with 14 nominations. If you haven't seen it, you're really out of touch. It's tying the all-time record with "Titanic" and "All About Eve," a classic.
HOWELL: All right. From the Golden Globes, though, to the Grammys, this award season has included quite a few political statements leaving many to wonder if the Oscars will follow suit, which they probably will.
ALLEN: Yes. Probably. One short documentary up for an Oscar follows the story of a Syrian family fleeing their country, of course, fleeing the war.
HOWELL: The mother purchased tickets for herself, for her children to travel to Los Angeles to tell the world about the war in Syria. But she worried that the confusion over the president's travel ban could force her to watch the award ceremony from home.
Atika Shubert has the story for us.
ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's not the gun battles or violence that draws you into the film, "Watani: My Homeland." It's the quiet rhythms of life in the midst of war.
Hala Kamil and her family lived on Aleppo's front line. Before them, the relentless snipers of the Syrian regime, behind them the death squads of ISIS. Her journey with four children from Aleppo to Turkey to Germany was captured in the documentary now up for an Oscar.
Hala had tickets and a U.S. visa, but when she heard that Syrians would be banned from entering the U.S., she was worried.
HALA KAMIL, SYRIAN REFUGEE: At first, I was so sad. As when you want to visit somebody and he closed the door in your face. It's very -- it's really bad and sad for me.
SHUBERT: President Donald Trump's executive order has left tens of thousands influx, not sure if the United States will welcome them, even if only for a short visit like Hala.
KAMIL: And I respect Trump so much because he don't mince his words with us. We haven't any problem with him but we want to speak to the people in U.S. I want to send message to the world that there's a lot of family, a lot of children in Syria have this dangerous thing. But I want for us to look for this story as a fact, as the truth, what happened in Syria, what happened to these people, to come here, to Europe.
SHUBERT: Despite the daily shelling and gun battles, the family refused to leave for years. Until their father, Abu Ali, a rebel commander with the Free Syrian Army, was captured by ISIS.
KAMIL (Translated Text): They took him right in front of me promising to slaughter him and I couldn't do anything. That's the last time I saw him.
SHUBERT: The film shows the children offering tearful goodbyes as they leave the destroyed streets of Aleppo, and how they keep their resolve in the tented camps at the Turkish border. Even as they bring their trauma with them, the youngest, Sarah, still running in fear of planes. The camera follows them to the cobblestone streets of Goslar, Germany
where the family lives now. The children have quickly made friends in their new home.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The tour was present, a big, big, big wall around the court.
SHUBERT: Hala cried when the Oscar nominations were announced. She shows us photos of her celebratory breakfast with the filmmaker Marcel Mettelsiefen. Hala explains her husband, Abu Ali, always stayed up late to watch the Oscars no matter what.
(On camera): So he loved movies, he loved films.
KAMIL: Yes. And he know every prize for anything.
SHUBERT (voice-over): Hala knows that her husband is probably dead. But she still searches through photos of bodies for proof. The children, especially the younger girls, still believe or hope that one day he may arrive at their door. For now, Hala only hopes that people will see the film to understand what she and millions of other Syrians have endured.
Atika Shubert, CNN, Goslar, Germany.
HOWELL: And we have this addendum to the story. We just learned moments ago that Hala has arrived safely to Los Angeles. She's already received offers from spokespeople from Michelle Obama and Nicole Kidman to help her with her dress.
[04:50:07] Sounds like she may actually make it to the award show.
ALLEN: We'll have to see that film. I haven't seen it. Look forward to seeing that documentary.
ALLEN: And we'll be right back with more news.
HOWELL: Welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM. He has never had a vote cast for him. He has never gone through the nomination process. Yet Steve Bannon is one of the most influential people in the Trump administration.
ALLEN: And on Thursday this man of some mystery stepped into the spotlight to answer questions at the Conservative Political Action Conference.
CNN's Jeanne Moos took time to compare the reality with the comedy show parodies of him. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
JEANNE MOOS, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The man "SNL" portrayed as the Grim Reaper wasn't so grim as he made a rare public appearance.
STEVE BANNON, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: You know, I can run a little hot on occasions.
MOOS: You may never have heard his voice before, but you've probably seen cartoons of him holding President Trump on his lap, whispering in the president's ear, being a master puppeteer. Steve Bannon has an announcement. Just a second, the strings are tangled.
BILL MAHER, HBO HOST: And that's how we wound up with President Bannon and his Dummy Donnie.
[04:55:02] MOOS: President Bannon has his own parody Twitter account tweeting comments like, "Day 33, Donald Trump still believes he is the president."
There are "Impeach President Bannon" T-shirts. And even a "New York Times" editorial called him president?
The late show showed Bannon tucking in President Trump.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Night-night. Don't let the bed bugs bite.
MOOS: But in person, the only thing Bannon flicked was the press.
BANNON: Well, the mainstream media don't get this. Is that the opposition party back there?
MOOS: Does the actual president mind all the talk of President Bannon?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Maybe Bannon's calling all the shots.
TREVOR NOAH, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW": If that wasn't true, then a certain cable news fan wouldn't have felt the need less than an hour later to tweet, "I called my own shots."
MOOS: Former Obama adviser David Axelrod compared Bannon and Reince Priebus to a song and dance team as they got touchy feely.
REINCE PRIEBUS, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: A very dear friend.
MOOS: Perhaps to dispel rumors of turf battles. This was like Bannon's coming out.
MATT SCHLAPP, CPAC 2017 HOST: You know, Steve, you're really a likeable guy. You should do this more often.
MOOS: Get out a little more from that mask "SNL" put you under.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can I have my desk back? ALEC BALDWIN, ACTOR: Yes, of course, Mr. President, I'll go sit at my
MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
ALLEN: Maybe we will see more of Steve Bannon.
HOWELL: Or maybe we won't. You never know.
ALLEN: Thanks for joining us. I'm Natalie Allen.
HOWELL: And I'm George Howell. The news continues right after the break. You're watching CNN, the world's news leader.
HOWELL: The president of the United States says that he will skip the White House Correspondents' Dinner and Democrats celebrate a new party leader.